Although the creation of rum dates back to the ancient times when Marco Polo gave an account of being offered "good wine made of sugar" in Persia in the 14th century; we most commonly associate the development of rum with the Caribbean sugar industry boom of the 17th century.In the heat of the tropical West Indies, sugar production was in full swing, leave gallons of the liquid "waste" behind as a result from processing sugar cane. We now know this waste as molasses, but until the liquid was fermented by plantation slaves, it was regarded as largely useless. When the fermentation of molasses began to increase, impurities were removed and the first rums were introduced. The earliest documentation of rum's production in the Caribbean has been attributed to Barbados in a 1651, in a report describing the drink as a fiery liquid made from sugar, called Rumbullion. This word is a derivative of the 17th century English word meaning "a great tumult and uproar." The early forms of rum were described as a "hellish liquor that could kill the devil himself" that was a much more rough version than the smooth drink we enjoy today. Later records mark rum production in Brazil during the 1620's, amongst other reports of the Spanish distilling rum in Puerto Rico and Cuba.
As the quality of rum improved, its popularity increased, and eventually rum production began in Colonial America. Distilleries began popping up all over New England, and for a time rum was even accepted as currency in some parts of Rhode Island. Sadly, rum was also used in the exchange and purchases during the slave trade, around the time of the Sugar Act (1764, which contributed to the American Revolution). In the decades that followed, rum's popularity continued to grow, and was often brought in as a celebratory drink for politicians in presidential campaigns.
Rum is often associated as the preferred libation of pirates in the West Indies. However the iconic song we associate with the knaves was composed by author Robert Louis Stevenson, who was Scottish and never himself traveled to the Caribbean. His book Treasure Island, published in (1883) contained the ditty "Fifteen men on the dead man's chest, Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum," was written too late to ever have been sung by pirates. However, being that rum production was prolific in the Caribbean, and that pirates enjoyed pillaging the bounty of the islands, and loved a drop or two; imagination doesn't leap too far to associate pirates and rum.
Most rum contains about 40-50% alcohol content, and is a drink made of fermented sugar cane juice, cane syrup or molasses. Rum usually undergoes an aging process, the most flavorful of which comes from being aged in oak barrels. The rum interacts with the wooden barrels and gains some color and flavor. For example, Jamaican rum (Appleton) is aged in empty Jack Daniels (whiskey) barrels for flavor. Aging and flavor depends on the size of the barrel the rum is aged in (small barrels with fresh wood will age differently and more potently in some cases than larger used barrels would accomplish). The color of rum can range from pale, to golden, amber, to deep reddish. Rums that have had a higher level of filtering will appear much clearer, than rums aged for longer periods of time in dark wood, or from added caramel or molasses.
Rum has long been a favorite element to add to many dishes, whether it be through flavoring cookies and cakes, soaking in candied fruits, giving sweet sauces to meats and bbq dishes, adding a flavor to chocolates, ice cream and jams; rum has had a prominent presence in many kinds of plates. Because of its sweetness, rum most often appears in desserts from chocolate rum fondue to rum flavored fruit cake or daiquiri ice cream. This drink also finds its way into main dishes like garlic and rum roasted pork, rum battered seafood, or sweet and spicy rum bbq sauce; there are countless ways to use rum when cooking.
Rum is aged and filtered differently depending on the company and product, meaning the genre and variations of rum are seemingly limitless.
Rum Punch (famous drink in the Caribbean, with several kinds of alcohol), Dacquiri (lime juice, rum and simple syrup), Mojito (rum, mint, lime, sugar, soda water, etc.), Hot Buttered Rum, Pina Colada, Hurricanes, Cable Car, Dark and Stormy, Jean Harlow, Capirinha, etc.
Some examples of delicious rums include: El Dorado's Special Reserve 15 Year old Rum, $40 a bottle and tasting of raisin and caramel. For higher-end samples, Goslings Old Rum is an honey and oaky flavored drink priced at $75 a bottle. Mount Gay 1703 Cask Select Rum (aged about 30 years) savors of banana, toffee, and oaky flavors, selling for $95. The most expensive rum for sale currently is the Legacy by Angostura, which is priced at $25,000 per bottle. However, in a recent auction, an ancient rum case dated back to 1780 from Barbados, was sold for the highest price on record at: $128,000.
If you'd rather snob it up with those of us who enjoy wine, then Drink Jockey has just the right resource for you--The Comprehensive Wine Guide.Wine Guide